The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), which represents more than 2,600 member organizations nationwide, testified March 29 at a Senate hearing in Washington that discussed issues related to cognitive decline.
The AFA’s brief to the Senate Special Committee on Aging described the state of Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on millions of American families. It also urged more federal funds for research and support services for caregivers, and emphasized the importance of memory screenings.
Last year, the New York-based AFA called for appropriating an additional $1 billion for Alzheimer’s research and $40 million more in enhanced investments for caregiver support and services in the fiscal 2017 budget.
The hearing featured two witness panels, one including journalist, broadcaster and Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement founder Maria Shriver. The other featured two Alzheimer’s experts — Kristine Yaffe, MD, vice-chair of psychiatry research at University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and Christopher Callahan, MD, director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research — as well as family caregiver Phyllis Gallagher.
Witnesses testified that despite an Alzheimer’sdiagnosis, caregivers can take measures to enhance quality of life so that patients can remain in their homes as long as possible. In addition, having periodic memory screenings and being mindful of brain health may help prevent or delay development of cognitive decline.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating illness that affects not only those with the disease, but their families, caregivers and communities,” AFA President and CEO Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. said in a media release. “It is important to educate people and raise awareness. I applaud Chairman [Susan] Collins (R-Maine), Ranking Member [Robert] Casey (D-Pa.) and the members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging for holding this hearing and shining a light on Alzheimer’s.”
In its written testimony, AFA focused on the increasing incidence of Alzheimer’s, the high cost of treating and managing the disease, the currently unmet need for better modifying treatments and ultimately a cure for this devastating brain disorder. The organization pointed to its free National Memory Screening Program as a first step in an evaluating whether a person is experiencing memory issues. It stressed that early detection of memory problems can provide a window of opportunity to establish contact with caregiver networks, address financial and legal issues, express end-of-life wishes and access caregiver training and support services.